Remembering a Sacrifice

The original plaque from the Alpha Zeta Walk came back to Pacific this week after being found in a used car in Ohio.

April 19, 2013

A plaque is returned — and other mystery starts to get answered. 

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How does a plaque from Pacific University end up in a used car halfway across the country?

It’s just another mystery associated with Pacific University paraphernalia.

Recently, Pacific University received an email from a man in Indiana whose coworker had found an old metal plaque in the back of a traded-in used car. He tracked the plaque’s origin to Pacific and was kind enough to ship it home last week.

The plaque, it appears, was the original designator for the Alpha Zeta Walk, which runs through the birches near Jefferson Hall. According to a 2010 story in Pacific magazine, the walk was dedicated on Armistice Day, 1948, to the Pacific University students and alumni who died in service in World War II. The original metal plaque was replaced with stone by members of the Alumni Association in 2003, according to the story.

We don’t know who ended up with the original plaque, nor how it made it’s way to Indiana. Frankly, says archivist Eva Guggemos, who took the original plaque into the Pacific University Archives, there’s probably a great story behind it all — and we’re unlikely to ever hear it all.

The return of the plaque did, however, rekindle my interest in another mystery around the AZ walk. Of the 31 students and alumni who died while serving in the military during WWII, one was a woman — a woman who we have previously known little about.

With Guggemos’ help, though, we were able to gather some details of her life. This week, as we pass the 60th anniversary of her death, I’d like to share a bit of her story, culled from newspaper reports at the time.

She has been listed as Mary Selfridge Callison ’41, though Mary Callison Selfridge is likely more accurate. Born in Montana, she moved to the Portland area as a child. She attended Pacific University, where she was a member of Theta Nu and a 1940 May Day princess. She majored in P.E. and graduated in 1941.

She married fellow Pacific student Lloyd Selfridge, who was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps. She went to Walter Reid to become a nurse and completed her training on March 21, 1943. Her first assignment was at an Army hospital in New Orleans, where she was working when she died unexpectedly less than a month later, on April 18, 1943.

We don’t know exactly what happened to Mary Callison Selfridge, but we do know she was among more than 350,000 women who served in the Armed Forces in World War II, and that her life was cut short during that period.

To her and to all who served, we say thank you — and Pacific University now has two plaques to commemorate their sacrifice.